Saturday, December 8, 2012

Turkey - Greece Visa Issue: “It is the Visa, Stupid”*

“So could you please recognize the following chemical compound sir, what does  Co2 stands for?” (Employee at the consulate making sure in a diabolical way that the interrogated is really what he claims to be... a chemist!)

“And why again you wish to visit Greece?...” (Detective like questions with an interrogating face that only reminds of other times..)

“So what about your income and job status you have an account?”

I do not have an account! I am a student and I want to visit Athens and the Acropolis, see part of the world heritage and one of the cradles of civilization of the ancient times.

In addition I am planning to spend my beautiful money in your country which is currently in deep crisis. Finally because of my status.. Student (!) I saved this money in a very hard way and no it happens that I do not have a bank account!!!

Well beyond the funny part we need to take a closer look to the bilateral relations with one of our most important neighbors, Turkey.

Specifically my tirade will focus only on tourism this time and more specifically in the Visa required for Turkish citizens who plan to visit Greece.

First of all concerning all the excuses and those long full of terminology argumentation frequently made on the topic by Greek diplomats or politicians I put this straight simple reply:

“It is the visa, Stupid!”

Despite all claims that the procedure has been made easy it is still a painstaking bureaucratic and costly one. The amount of paper work need to be done is unacceptable, job status, accounts, revenue statement, invitation, recommendation...and it goes on to infinity and further. 

On the top of that applicants need to “pass” also the interview part...which becomes really interesting especially when some of the employees in the consulate see themselves as the guardians of the EU. 

Despite the 60 euro cost which is quite high especially when budget is low (students, individual travelers etc.) there are also other hidden costs. These have to do with the time all applicants need to sacrifice in order to apply ...wait...and wait...and again wait...and go and pick up the papers...and go again and again... these all sum up in high costs of time and effort which at the end of the day are very discouraging for any kind of traveler.

I always advice to look at the numbers before any decision. So simply, given a Turkey with an economic growth that would make many rub their eyes, with around a half of the population being under 29 years and large growing middle class expanding along with a class of new entrepreneurs and an elite I could personally not think of a more ideal “customer”. High income means higher life standards, higher expenses and thirst for tourism.

But it is not only the “cold” numbers! It is the culture and common history. Greek and Turkish culture share a common history of some hundreds of years. We shared the same lands, traded with each other, enriched our customs and at the end of the day lived together. Some might prefer to look at the dark pages of those years, sure there were, but how about focusing on tomorrow? Why not make business and prosper together? I am persuaded that the majority of the people of both Greece and Turkey adapt the latter stance and both want easier access and procedures.

But there is EU and its regulations some could claim! Yes indeed this is true, but there are many intelligent ways that Greece can act within the framework of the EU agreements and at the same time “do the job”. I leave the legal terminology and tricks to the expertise of the field. Even if that is far to stretched why not trying to be honest with our EU partners concerning the importance of Turkey for Greece thus setting the stage for changes in the relations and “demands” Greece has from Turkish visitors.

As a conclusion I will put it straight. The future of Greece is binded with the one of Turkey and vice versa. Political leadership may choose to look back and freeze time, but reality proves this tactic devastating cause time moves ahead fast and there is no luxury in losing chances especially in “interesting times” like the ones in Greece now.

Panagis Germenis

*The original phrase was "The economy, stupid" which James Carville had coined as a campaign strategist of Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting president George  H. W. Bush

1 comment:

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